“Do I have to like someone in order to love them?” So the question my daughter asked me many years ago. Good question. We Christians, despite all of our disagreements and divisions do agree on one thing. That is Jesus’ command to love one another. I realize we don’t always do a very good job of that, but we still cling to that command believing that to ignore it would lead to a kind of self-righteous hypocrisy. And unfortunately there are some who, in the name of all things Christian do just that very thing.
Maybe one of the reasons loving can be so difficult is our lack of understanding what love meant to Jesus. That is, there are, in the New Testament Greek language, three different words for love. Eros, or romantic love. Philios, or love for a sister or brother, and Agape, or love that seeks the well being of others. The love Jesus speaks about when he says to love one another, and to love God and neighbor as we would ourselves is Agape.
There is clearly room in our lives for all of these forms of love, but to associate Christian love with anything apart from that desire to advocate for the well being of others is a very shallow kind of love. Even when you consider the other kinds of love. Romantic love without self-giving can become exploitative. Love for brother and sister absent of seeking their well being can become self centered.
The Apostle Paul reminds us all that love is patient and kind, is not rude or boastful or arrogant. It never insists on its own way, is not irritable or resentful. It never rejoices in wrongdoing. It rejoices in the truth. Love hopes all things, bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.
There is a wonderful inclusivity to agape-love.
So this is why I marvel at the antics of those who would set themselves up as righteous and loving while at the same time breaking the laws of the land under the pretense of religious freedom. Or those who oppress the less fortunate while extolling the “blessings” they have received from God because they have mistaken material wealth with being loved more by God. Or condemning those with whom they disagree on matters of theology and scriptural interpretation because they believe they have, and control the Truth.
Especially now. Especially at this time when there is so much heartbreak in our world, so much violence and hatred. This is not the time for Christians to exclude, isolate and condemn.
Today is the 14th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and Flight 93 crashed in a failed attempt to crash into the White House. There were evil things done that day.
But there were also heroic things done. Self-sacrificial things done. Loving things done. In the cell phone recordings of the passengers of Flight 93 the last words of those who were about to die were words of love for family and friends. Not words of hatred. Words of love.
One time Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought about Christians. Mind you he had had a bad experience as a law student in London when he tried to attend a Christian worship service. He was barred because of his skin color.
When asked what he thought about Christians he said, “I like your Jesus. I don’t like your Christians. They don’t act like your Jesus.”
Do we have to like someone in order to love them? Not really.
Not if we’re going to act like Jesus.